A Brief Commentary on the Role LGBTQ Novels, Anime, and Manga Play in Inspiring Self Discovery

I happened across a copy of Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle in my mid-teens. Before that, homosexuality and the entire spectrum of LGBTQIA culture were vaguely alien concepts. I was aware of the scorn that most people in my performatively religious homeland harbored toward “gay” individuals but I had no solid understanding of what that entailed, to be quite honest.

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Molly Bolt is a young lady with a big character. Beautiful, funny and bright, Molly figures out at a young age that she will have to be tough to stay true to herself in 1950s America. In her dealings with boyfriends and girlfriends, in the rocky relationship with her mother and in her determination to pursue her career, she will fight for her right to happiness. Charming, proud and inspiring, Molly is the girl who refuses to be put in a box.

Reading Rubyfruit Jungle not only opened my eyes to a completely new world, but also made me acutely aware of the irrationality of the intolerance that runs rampant in Jamaican society.

I remember reading Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in high school, and suggesting that Mercutio’s affection toward Romeo might be more than platonic. Our staunchly religious English Literature teacher vehemently denied any such possibility and promptly changed the subject. This slightly baffling experience only served to deepen my curiosity.

Years later, an avid fan of Japanese anime, I stumbled across an anime titled Mirage of Blaze in a bookstore. That series was my intro to an entire subgenre of anime and manga dedicated to “Shonen Ai” (Boys Love) and “Shoujo Ai” (Girls Love).

The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is an anime adaptation of a very interesting supernatural “boy’s love” manga.

This series easily tops my “favorite anime” list and is one of the most fascinating LGBT-friendly speculative fiction works I’ve come across in several years.

While YAOI, YURI, Shonen Ai, and Shoujo Ai works generally target cisgender audiences, I quickly realized early on, that my fondness for the truly, sensitively written/drawn stories from these subgenres/fandoms was closely tied to accepting and relishing my own nature rather than simply fetishizing LGBTQ culture.

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